The co-op conundrum

In multiplayer gaming there are really only two broad categories of gaming, versus or co-operative, at least for the purposes of this article.

When you play a multiplayer game versus other people, generally you can drop in, blow some noobs back to the stone age, check your kill:death ratio and your achievements then go back to whatever it was you were doing before the urge to distribute brain matter came over you.

In co-operative multiplayer you generally join a small group of friends to work you way through a campaign of some sort, be that slaying dragons or breaching a safe house full of terrorists.

Fable 2 had a co-op system which relied on finding a friend who didn’t want to actually play their own character while helping you complete your game with no reward for them, nobody like you that much buddy, big mistake Fable 2, fail. The co-op mode in Crackdown 2 also only progressed the game of the host, leaving the other players as nothing more than hired lacky’s who gained nothing from the experience, we could call this the Fable 2 co-op model, very broken, very wrong.

Saints Row 2 also included a co-op mode and while you could play through the campaign with a friend it was way too much fun to just surprise them with an RPG to the face, over and over and over. That never got old and unfortunately it severely impaired progress through the campaign.

Which brings me to Halo:Reach. A game which has nailed the co-op campaign like no other, while it doesn’t support drop in/out in the co-op campaign it does allow you to play through with a friend (or up to 3 friends) with your own customised character and allows you to bring in the items and character from your single player game in to the campaign and firefight (versus) modes. Almost a perfect co-op experience.

Which brings me to the co-op conundrum.

A game which doesn’t allow drop in/out, but does allow you to play through the campaign with friends where everyone gets credit for completing the campaign introduced a dynamic whereby you need everyone who started the campaign with you be available to play at the same time in order to progress.

Unfortunately, for me at least, your friends all have families, with kids or other commitments (or just other games they play, I hate you WoW) and it would seem that the chances of assembling four of you at the same place for any considerable period of time is approaching impossible in a logarithmic progression the more players you add to the mix.

Obviously, the chances of getting game time in a single player game is 100%, but as you add players, the chances that you are all available in a coherent block of time approaches zero, this dynamic works for as little as 4 players depending the age of the player.

For example, when you’re 15 years old and you’de done all your homework and you parents will let you play, you may be able to get 3 of your friends in to a game maybe 50% of the time, like so:

Single guys, around mid 20’s (or maybe any age) probably still living in there mothers basements have a much easier time of it.

35+, with a family, four player co-op? Forget about it.

I fit in to this last category of course and I know these numbers are scientifically proven by empirical evidence collected over the last 40 years, it’s real science, you can’t dispute my findings.

What these finding do tell us is that as an Angry Old Bastard gamer the most you can hope for in a game like Halo:Reach is to be able to game with one buddy, add more in to the mix and you’re just asking for a world of hurt and frustration. Of course, there will be exceptions and by changing the variables (for instance adding drop in/out to a co-op game, like Diablo 3) and the chance of achieving gaming nirvana are increased.

So, if you’re old and stupid and still manage to co-ordinate both thumbs at the same time through all the arthritis pain grab a copy of Halo:Reach and sign up one of your friends, pick wisely, in fact, maybe you should pick your single friends as your co-op partner. I didn’t chart that possibility, shit. Maybe next time.

HPI Nitro Monster King

Get in the waaaaaay back machine and come with me, 20 years ago, Rose Cottage Inn on the Monaro highway, the second Sunday of every month.

Tamiya Frog

Here you would find me and dad setting up a rickety old cards table and crappy fold up chairs, pulling a car battery out of the boot of the car connecting some wires to it then to another smaller battery. I would then be carefully removing a small 1:10 scale buggy from the boot, in the early days a Tamiya Frog then later a Tamiya Hornet and a Tamiya Hotshot. Checking the battery level of the stick (then later, wheel) radio control unit, chatting with friends, selling my home made battery eliminators, eating terrible half cooked hotdogs from the Inn and finally putting my charged car on the starting line, ready to race.

Hornet

I was pretty good too, in the early days due to the quick reflexes, some driving tips from dad  and enthusiasm of youth and in the later days to sponsorship I managed to secure from a hobby shop (Zanter Hobbies, Google has failed me in finding any trecent trace of them except for this) my car and I were competitive and I still have a box of trophies in the shed to prove it. Unfortunately, despite the sponsorship, skill and enthusiasm the hobby got away from me as more and more adults and their full time jobs and full time salaries joined in, spending more and more money on much more expensive cars than I could afford put me out of competition, the hobby had ceased to be fun and turned in to a business.

Hotshot

Since then I haven’t really kept up with RC technology but have occasionally gone to watch the weekend races hosted by CORMCC Club in Canberrra and casually look at hobby shops to see what sort of cars people were racing/driving these days and it wasn’t hard to tell that the trend which began when I stopped racing has continued and grown since then.

From my little research on local forums and the CORMCC site the racing scene is just as big as it was back in my day, we would regularly get 20-30 racers out on an average day and by the looks of the results page on the CORMCC site they get about the same. The main difference being that back when I was racing there was only really one class of car available, 2WD or 4WD electric 1:10 scale. These days the classes seem split between 1:8 electric, 1:8 Nitro, Buggies and Truggies, and then there is a whole different set of racers for on-road electric, nitro or drift. As far as I can tell Nitro Buggies are the most popular format and a little more research reveals that the average budget for a race competitive buggy would be close to $2000! ….and I thought it was expensive back when I was making my own electronics and buying drive shafts from guys cutting them on a lathe in their garage….crikey!

Just before Fathers Day a friend sent me a link to some cheap RC helicopter a friend of his has bought from RC Hobbies, and while I wasn’t terribly interested in the helicopter I ended up browsing around the site and found this RTR (Ready to Roll) HPI Nitro Monster King, the perfect fathers days present.

I figured for $200 I’d get a fully assembled nitro monster truck ready to drive out of the box, this includes the engine, radio unit and almost everything else you need to get driving, little did I know it needed an additional $150 worth of batteries, fuel, glow plug ignitor, charger and other accessories but it was still a good way to get back in to the hobby, so I figured.

Here’s the beast in the flesh, after going through the quite extensive run-in procedure I am yet to complete the engine tuning process but these are well documented so hopefully I’ll have it fully tuned and ready to belt around the back paddock in no time.

HPI Nitro Monster King

The next stage in the master plan is to get on the ride-on and mow out a track in grass, then carve out a track in the dirt complete with jumps and other monster truck appropriate obstacles (not alpacas).

In the back of my mind buying this truck was mostly to see if driving was still fun (it is!) and if Alex would like it (he does!) with the ultimate aim being that I would eventually be able to buy a competitive buggy (electric or nitro, I’m undecided) and go racing again, giving us something to do together much like my dad and me did all those years ago.

Now that I’m one of those adults with a full time job and a full time income I can go back and have my revenge on the hobby which cast me aside all those years ago, finally, MU HA HA HA *cough* *cough*.